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Ten single-use plastic products that for years have blighted Europe’s beaches were largely banned from July 3 as the EU’s Single-Use Plastics Directive of 2019 comes into force. Items such as cutlery, plates, straws, could not be sold as of Saturday 3rd. Also getting banned are oxo-degradable plastic bags that are marketed as biodegradable but which, according to the EU, break down into microplastics that long remain in the environment. These disposable plastics make up around 70% of marine litter in Europe. Cafes and restaurants will now be forced to stock cups and straws made of bamboo, and other eco-friendly materials. But not all have been outlawed as part of the plastics reforms. Example-Plastic drink bottles are still allowed.
Guyana is on the edge of officially banning single-use plastics and following the growing global trend in the direction of no longer using single-use plastic items. (What is missing is an actual date). 90% of shoppers in Guyana to all the major stores have travelled abroad with the US as the primary destination, and know that single-use plastic bags are no longer an option at the checkout counters, so getting these same people to accept a change here should not pose a problem. In the United States, which took the lead in this change of direction, over 10years ago; single-use plastic bags in grocery stores are a thing of the past. Shoppers now have the option of paper bags or bags of a non-plastic variety. “Plastic” bags, when available anywhere, are usually recyclable and made out of “HDPE”, which is clearly stated on the bags, with the famous recycle arrow icon. Customers are also provided with ways to have those bags recycled.
“Biodegradable” bags in the US/Europe/Asia are rarely given to shoppers either, as they are outside of the more normal and more cheaper and effective recycling process. Guyana urgently needs to have several privately run recycling facilities, with financial incentives from the government; for recycling all the plastic waste, including plastic bottles. The current flooding catastrophe is partly due to clogged drainage with plastic items. Our gutters and trenches are full of them.
The need for an official ban is multifold. Firstly, to promote our local Guyanese businesses that can play a part in this conversion by offering alternatives, secondly-to inform citizens to pivot from single-use plastic bags, which is proving to be better for our environment and landscape, and importantly to attempt to keep our waterways less clogged with plastics items.
There are already small enterprises and individuals on ground to be part of the solution to move us forward, in joining the rest of the global community on this critical issue. The advantage we have as a small population, is that the rollout is likely to be a success quickly, if done properly.
As grocery stores in Guyana have already invested in purchasing non recyclable plastic bags, those bags can still be used to separate certain food items in stores, and are also needed to separate perishable items at home to throw away, but Guyana needs to look at the bigger picture, like other countries. We have to evolve with the rest of the world. Better now, than later sometime. Again, what is missing is an official date.